Chartiers Valley softball aims to build on strong fall season

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Sunday, March 24, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Chartiers Valley’s 2023 softball season came to a sudden halt when it was blanked in the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals.

A 10-0 loss was not the way the Colts wanted their season to end against the team they shared the section title with.

Fast forward a few months and the Colts got their redemption against those Montour Spartans, albeit in the Mt. Lebanon Fall Tournament. The semifinal win in the tournament allowed Chartiers Valley to breakthrough a semifinal curse that has held the Colts back during the last three WPIAL playoffs.

“It’s understanding what that bus ride was like on the way home after that game,” coach Chris Lloyd said reminiscing about last year’s postseason loss. “We played in a fall tournament and got to the semifinals and won the tournament, so they’ve tasted that success.”

The Colts put together an impressive season a year ago, going 17-4 and sharing a Section 3-4A title with Montour after going 11-1, with the only regular section loss coming against the Spartans.

Now, the Colts are taking that fall ball experience and using it as a springboard into this season.

“The fall was a good opportunity for us to get a taste of what our section games with them will be like this year and I think that if we play the game the way we know how to, we’ll have a strong chance of winning the section,” senior Marta Gualazzi said.

Gualazzi, a Robert Morris commit, is a key returning starter at third base after the Colts graduated five seniors. However, the Colts are prepared to take the next step with the valuable players who remain.

“It’s not a rebuild, it’s a reload because the girls on the field have the experience,” Lloyd said. “The outlook is to make it to the WPIAL championship. They’re ready to make it and get past this hump.”

Junior starting pitcher Taylor Walsh knows this year could be special.

“We just need to take what they’ve been building up the past couple of years. Our coach always talks about finishing what they had started. I feel like we’ll take that and build on it,” Walsh said.

As the Colts track down a WPIAL championship, the section title comes first and that is only achievable if the Colts have a strong start, Lloyd says.

“I always explain to the girls, going out the first half of the season, making a name for yourself and finishing 6-0 because the second half of the season is going to be different,” he said. “They’ve seen our hitters before, the pitchers are going to through different pitches, so we have to go out and take it one game at a time.”

With hitting coming as a strength for the Colts, pitching will also serve as a critical facet. Walsh, who had a 2.23 ERA last season while striking out 62 batters, will be heavily relied upon. Her and the rest of the pitching staff will have to benefit of being caught by an all-state catcher in sophomore Lily Duffill.

“Me and Lily have known each other for a while,” Walsh said. “As pitcher and catcher together we work on what my go-to pitch is and where to throw it. We’ve definitely had a good connection in school, on the field and even outside of all of that. Our bond is super tight.”

Just as Walsh and Duffill have a strong relationship, that’s just a small sample size of the tight-knit group that the Colts are.

“We’ve all known each other for a very long time,” Walsh said. “Our bond is strong and we’re able to talk with each other and communicate throughout the game. If there’s something wrong, we’ll pick each other up.”

First baseman Caitlin O’Farrell, outfielder Autumn Weitzel and shortstop Kylie DeSalle round out the senior class with Gualazzi.

Additionally, juniors Delaney O’Connor, who will be the secondary pitcher, and second baseman Annabelle Helt will provide that important experience needed to make another run at a section and WPIAL title.

“Our starting lineup is a lot of older girls who have been on the team and have had the playoff experience that we need to get work done this season,” Gualazzi said. “I get excited every year to be able to play high school softball and can’t wait for one more, even without the five seniors from last year who I’ve gotten to play with since my freshman year. For me and the rest of the team, we have to work to fill their places and step up even bigger and better.”

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